Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function

by Miles O'brien
Helping the body regrow nerves: New strategy for restoring nerve function
People with paralysis and other physical disabilities are walking again due to the development of a robotic exoskeleton. It is the creation of Homayoon Kazerooni, a robotics engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his team of researchers. Their work focuses on the control of human-machine systems specific to lower human extremities. Credit: NBC Learn, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation

Combat, cancer and accidents—all can cause devastating nerve injuries. Sometimes, the body heals on its own.

"Your , the ones in the arms and the face, have an inherent ability to regenerate, but only under ideal circumstances," says University of Florida biomedical engineer Christine Schmidt.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Schmidt and her team are working to restore when injuries are more complicated. Surgeons can sometimes move a nerve from one part of a patient's body to another. Schmidt has developed a method that grafts cadaver tissue onto the damaged area to act as a for nerves to re-grow themselves.

"This medical application has been made possible by developing new methods and by understanding how cells interact with their surroundings," notes Friedrich Srienc, director of the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Schmidt and her team are also looking at other approaches to directly stimulate nerve growth using as building blocks the natural sugar molecules found in the body. That would eliminate the need to transplant tissue. While the ultimate goal in nerve regeneration is reversing paralysis, Schmidt says intermediate successes, such as improving lung or bladder function, can be invaluable to patients and their families.

Related Stories

New tissue engineering breakthrough encourages nerve repair

date Jul 08, 2013

A new combination of tissue engineering techniques could reduce the need for nerve grafts, according to new research by The Open University. Regeneration of nerves is challenging when the damaged area is extensive, and surgeons ...

Race to nerve regeneration: faster is better

date Oct 03, 2011

A team of researchers led by Clifford Woolf and Chi Ma, at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, has identified a way to accelerate the regeneration of injured peripheral nerves in mice such that ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify "beige" fat-burning cells in humans

date 1 hour ago

For the first time, a research team, led by a UC San Francisco biologist, has isolated energy-burning "beige" fat from adult humans, which is known to be able to convert unhealthy white fat into healthy brown ...

Protein may improve liver regeneration

date 17 hours ago

Researchers at UC Davis have illuminated an important distinction between mice and humans: how human livers heal. The difference centers on a protein called PPARα, which activates liver regeneration. Normally, mouse PPARα ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.